Thursday, 14 November 2013

Non Stop Fitting Room Archive Part 3: The Westside Bar Years

This final post of photos and magazine clippings that have graced the walls of Non Stop's fitting rooms for around a decade turns to a period of particular fond memories for brothers of a certain age.  Many look back on the very late 90s-early 2000s as a God-forsaken era of swishy pants, Muska-beats and Osiris shoes, and the first burst of skateboarding's most recent era of major mainstream popularity with Tony Hawk's Pro-Skater.  In Nottingham, we accept all these things as true and awful but maybe aren't quite as able to erase the bad memories at the risk of losing some good ones. 
I really wish I could claim to have spent that entire period worshipping only Keenan, Gino and Kalis and respectfully dressing in the manner of a late-90s east coast rap guy.  But many skaters in Nottingham swallowed Osiris, Shorty's et al in a big way.  Myself and many of my contemporaries were swishy pants-ed to the max.  There were air-tech fabric Osiris t-shirts, Pete Smolik signature 'sag-no-drag' cargo pants, and many of the shoes that have appeared in Jenkem's two collections of the worst skate shoes of all time (nasty DCs..  check; Osiris D3s...  in multiple colourways....  check).
But skating in our fair city during this time was amazing, and Non Stop - with their long-time staffers' admitted fondness for all things very baggy, shiny and hip-hop - were in their heyday, with a super good team and a secret weapon just across from their St James' street premises: West Side Bar.  This grubby dive would have been unremarkable, and 6 days of the week it was: providing cheaper-than-average booze to Midlands drinkers to fuel a night's shouting and fighting.  It is no surprise that the place has since been replaced by several different Aussie themed sports-bars solely dedicated to getting meatheads drunk.  But on Thursday nights back then, Non Stop and the city's skateboarding fraternity took over.  This was also the heyday of really good, just-out-of-the-underground UK rap - and not too many years from the golden era of New York rap of skate video fame, so all us (mostly) middle class whiteboys could get our thug on to Nas, Wu Tang, Mobb Deep, Taskforce, Jehst, Roots Manuva, Mud Fam, Brain Tax, Black Star etc. etc. without a hint of irony or risk of being seen by civilians.  I believe our younger bredren do something similar at Phlebas these days... except the girl:dude ratio is significantly more favourable for them than it was for us.  Chicks prefer Clarke's shoes and 5-panel caps to bright yellow t-shirts, Argos bling and track pants every time.
Skating was pretty heavy in Notts at the time too - with a concentration of dudes in their prime who pretty much pulled off the hella-baggy/hella-swishy thing and looked kind-of-pretty-good with it: Gaz Jenkins, Sam Culshaw and Craig Smedley to name the obvious ones - certainly the ones who could rock the most jewellery in Westside on a Thursday and not look as ridiculous as the rest of us.  We also had some good-for-the-time spots - especially a huge warehouse with one wall ripped off, that quickly gained ledges and flat banks to accompany a natural kicker (see below), gaps and jump ramps up to huge metal-cased machinery.  The story of that place is for another time - and it got a 'bit too serious' for many, with dudes actually getting down there for 7.00am (Hardflip Lee, where you at?) to train before everyone else turned up.  So here's some photos from Non Stop's archives:
Sam Culshaw floats one of his perfect tres flips out of the warehouse natural kicker, in a not-really-too-bad-for-the-time pair of sneakers.  No wonder he's made a living out of trainers since.  This made up the contents spread in Sidewalk.
A favourite nincompoop, Unabomber's Christopher 'Bambi' Price backlipping a bench (that used to be at Clarendon) from the same kicker as above.  Appeared in Sidewalk in the news section.
Smedley switch hard-flipping the grass gap at the school just off Lenton/Radford Boulevard - for his Sidewalk interview in December 2000.
And now for the... errr... lifestyle pics.  You know who you are.


Sunday, 29 September 2013

Non Stop Fitting Room Archive Part 2: The Rock City Skate 'festivals'

Posts over the summer have fallen to a level of infrequency comparable to Frozen in Carbonite, without the admirable quality control.  Too much actual skateboarding in the here-and-now has left little time to post 'owt about way-back-when.  Perhaps the only disadvantage of the amazing summer we've had in the UK.
Anyway, back to getting some of those photos that have been languishing in the gloom of Non Stop's fitting rooms back into the electronic light of day.  The next three posts relate to some particularly fond memories:  the first two relate to themes of macro importance to skating in Big Notts in the late 90s and early 200s; the third has more personal appeal to a small group of us.
The Rock City Skate Festivals - 1997-1999

For two/three years running (depending on whether you count the last one, which kind of got cancelled after being moved to the ice stadium) the owners of hair-metal-sticky-floor teenage drinking venue Rock City took leave of their senses and allowed Non Stop to organise a skate jam/booze-addled party inside the nightclub.  In the first one, the Panic-Blueprint team showed up to promote their first vid, Mixed Media...  and Paul Shier kickflip-50-50'd the edge of the main-stage out of a sketchy kicker.  Sidewalk have already reminisced on how mental these events were...  unlikely to ever happen again given skating is now so much more visible.  The venue literally didn't know what they were letting themselves in for - a couple of hundred nobs took over the place and used it as a massive skatepark, most of them drunk out of their minds.  The midlands were introduced to Pritchard's Welsh genitalia.  I remember learning to ollie by repeatedly jumping onto then off the stage of Disco 2, not really distracted by Feeder trying to dreary their way through middle-of-the-road indie-rock on the same stage at the time.
And some dude took a bunch of black-and-white pictures...  no one remembers who.  I checked with Horsley....  it wasn't him or any other Sidewalk-affiliates, so I guess its OK to post them.
[ADDENDUM TO THIS SHIZNITZ: I've just found out that the man behind these photographs is none other than my good buddy and raddest dad Ben Taylor, source of unfailing positivity and owner of a floaty, fruity flow on his plank.  Not sure how he found time to take these snaps - for a photography course, I believe - given I clearly remember him shredding hard throughout the event whilst dressed as Toymachine-era Brian Anderson).

Pics above and below: Lil' Jon Weatherall by the looks of it, performing tres flips to fakie, presumably in the first and second years - unless he went for a t-shirt change.

And the unmistakable form of Craig Smedley smashing a frontside flip - in the era in which he was in his element - white DC Syntaxes, massive jeans, white tees.  He had every flip trick correct, and still has.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Non Stop fitting room archives: Part 1

Not so long ago, Non Stop Sports, OG Nottingham skate emporium and lunchtime lurking destination of choice, undertook a major refurb - transforming itself from the gloomy den of wonder that typified indie skateshops of  the 1990s to a modern-day airy, white-washed boutique perfect for displaying trainers and 5-panels to entrance time-served skaters and fashion bastards alike.  It is now somewhere my wife is happy to stand with me while I shoot the breeze with Robin, Ant, Elliott et al - when she previously felt a panic-inducing lack of air and sunlight.  Good work brothers.  Go there to get all the good stuff.

From the mid-1990s until the early 2000s, the walls of Non Stop's two fitting rooms were where we shared our photos of skating accomplishments, and where Non Stop staffers dutifully curated the achievements of Nottingham-based heavy-hitters - so badly composed photos of your mate from Beeston could sit comfortably alongside pictures of Gaz Jenkins conquering mighty rails and stairsets.  That the new, improved and updated Non Stop no longer has a place for possibly germ-ridden layers of incremental photo montage is probably no bad thing - both for the respiratory health of Robin and co, but also because the new generation are prolific in sharing their recent achievements via Instagram and Facebook, and through the city's excellent Varial photo magazine.

However, some heavy shit went down in those more innocent, pre-digital times, when paucity of facilities kept us on the streets in our various suburbs every week night and then together in mass in the city centre every Sunday, as comrade D-Bevs so eloquently recalled in the recent 200th edition of Sidewalk.  Although we (and I mean me in particular) photographed this stuff with a level of incompetence that younger, more skilled local photo dudes like Tom Quigley would rightly delete without hesitation - we snapped away with a lot of heart, if not any working knowledge of exposure and shutter speeds.   The walls of Non Stop's fitting rooms thus acted as an archive of our youth and a pretty significant slice of time in Nottingham's skate history.

Ant Orton, long-time Nottingham skate socialite and Non Stop brother number 2, has been kind enough to 1) keep hold of all these old photos; and 2) lend them to me to share on this terrible blog.

So, with no further ado, here is the first batch of photos from them days.  Please bear in mind that many of these have been pinned to a wall for 10-15 years, have been drawn on, stickered over, etc.- they are what they are, old photos from a changing room wall - the skateboard version of damp porn found in bushes - so they are faded, ripped and marked.  They also make me really happy.
Ally Couch - front nosegrind/over-crook on the Sneinton school rail - famed for Rushbrooke's back 5.0 Sidewalk cover.  Photo credits for this one go to Michael Wright, who did and does know how to take a decent photograph
Matt Blanchfield, big popper from a recent poppa - over road cone and curb gap/into little ramp at the close of the 90s.

Paul Langlois (AKA 'Guernsey Paul'...  Nottingham's answer to JB Gillet), 50-50 across the driveway round-rail at Derby Storm, c. 98/99.  He tried this switch as well and dislocated a couple of fingers in the process.

Ally Couch, D-Bevs (in his 101 era Jason Dill/Billy Valdes phase) and Neil Turner - some pub in Lenton, probably around 2000-2002

Sunday, 16 June 2013


Stoked on this dude's interview in the latest Dank magazine....    an OG's OG, and there's ever fewer of those left these days.

Oslo 5 (Henning Braaten) from Cyclone on Vimeo.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Your virtual imprint is hella weak, son

Between 2006 and 2012, for some unknown reason, I put together a video edit or two a year, which hardly anyone saw...  probably with good reason.  But, despite my lack of Dan Wolfe/French Fred level skills, I still reckon some pretty good, fun, relateable... mainly 'low impact' can't Ollie up 'em/don't Ollie down 'em skating went down in front of my barely competent fisheye.
Whatever.  In the hope of motivating myself and others to get out and skate, travel and film this 'summer' (the jet stream is stuck in much the same place as it was last year, so prospects of a bbq/perfect blue-drenched summer are minimal), here's a few of the 'better' edits.

Winter 2011
An edit to welcome 42 skateshop, and to pull together footage from the late summer/autumn of that wash-out of a year (but not quite the deluge of 2012).  Ignorant to the politics of local commerce, I foolishly jointly dedicated this to both 42 and Non Stop - the two legit skate emporia in Nottingham town - and the latter were royally pissed at me for doing so. Sorry...  I will make it up to y'all with my planned 'changing room photo archive' edit.   You can't deny the dope Taskforce track though.

Summer 2010
Almost three year's ago now we went on a rad expedition around south Yorkshire, north Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire - which was a lot of fun. even if it resulted in x1 broken ankle.  This edit mainly covers that trip, which only seems like yesterday, meaning we should go again...  soon.

Long Eaton Rifles and West Bridgford Daggers 2010
Outputs from a rad year of Manchester and London weekend trips and skating local streets at night and the pre-slightly dodgy refit Lady Bay park in the day.

Scotland and Barcelona 2006
In the summer of 2006, a disorganised minibus full of Nottingham half-wits worked their way up to and through Scotland, hanging with (and being terrified by) such gnarly luminaries as Div Adam and honorary Scott, Paul 'Man' Sylvester.  One of the best trips of my life, preceded by the last time I visited Barcelona un-injured.  Got married that year as well.....   2006 was a good year.  D Bevs and Ad K took some amazing photos of the Scotland mission as well, which are worth unearthing.  Some early Bambi and Golding here, for Unabomber fans.  Promise to self for 2013: edit more skating to Dalek.

Saturday, 4 May 2013


If you have fond memories of the 1995 Harmony Korine/Larry Clarke film 'Kids', or the Mixtape-era heyday of NYC skateboarding and the original Zoo York thing in general, you'd be well-advised to spend a moment reading this 'almost twenty years' later' piece on Kids by Caroline Rothstein.  Interviews with legends like Peter Bici and Jefferson Pang give you a mix of behind-the-scenes testimonies and where-are-they-now stories.  And, of course, a lot of memories of the late, great Harold Hunter.
Maybe this isn't the 'best' section on Mixtape (for that, I can't decide between Anthony Correa or Robbie Gangemi), but its a vivid illustrator of what Josh Stewart said in the last issue of '43' about strong personalities shining through, making  someone's skating both great and memorable. 
r.i.p. HH and r.i.p. the OG Zoo we knew and loved.  Hope reading the above article on Kids, or watching any part of Mixtape reminds the streetwear financiers now in charge of Zoo what poor custodians they've been. 
P.S. Nice to see Pang and Bici both looking mighty healthy for being in their forties (seriously?!)...  hopefully that's a testament of the elixir of youth from shredding on a plank for years. 

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Like a Flailing Seagull

I had been meaning to post this little lot for a while, but my dilapidated old scanner's been playing daft bastards.  

First of all we have two more Nottingham-based Sidewalk covers from the mid-to-late-90s:
On the left, Alan Rushbrooke eases a well-balanced backside 5.0 down the yellow Sneinton school rail.  This was from the first copy of Sidewalk I ever purchased myself (issue 14, March 1997), and I read and re-read it with new guy enthusiasm. The rail in question has seen quite a lot of action.  I think its last appearance in a mag involved a Chewy switch crook at some point in the mid-2000s.  A particular snap I'd like to put up is of Blonde Boozing & Bellowing Buffoon, Ali Couch and his fully committed frontside over-crook down this very rail - which I believe still graces the inside of one of the changing rooms in Non Stop.  Creepy...  that guy is looking at you when you try on a new pair of super tight fitting Nike SB/Levis jeans.

On the right, Harry 'the bastard' Bastard (given name Alan Cuthbertson) boosts an indie out of one of the awkward hips of the late Broadmarsh Banks.  This is from the Jan/Feb 1995 mag, predating my entry to this absurd pastime but included in a stash of mags given to me by a former Non Stop employee as he went about exorcising skateboarding from his life (I got the Keenan Milton RIP issue of Transworld in that bundle, so there are benefits to being nice to bitter ex-skaters).

Then we have 42's own Scotty Underdown's Jan/Feb 98 Haunts Interview - which a bunch of us have been reminiscing about lately (my buddy Jerry presents it as a divining rod for taste: if you don't think this is amazing, you're an idiot).  I apologise for the poor quality of a couple of the scans - the original mag isn't in the greatest of nick, as it was another read and re-read favourite, and notable for including the Jon Weatherall cover I posted a bit ago, a dope Carl Shipman DC ad,  a Tom Penny Radlands switch-frontside flip driveway clearance, and an early example of why Finland is worth watching if you're in anyway inclined towards appreciating the massive pop/hip-hop school of street skating (Mikko Kivikoski's 'First Offence' check out).  Anyway, Scotty's Haunts interview is amazing, as you can see for yourself...  particularly dig the front board on the back of a bench and the window ledge crook grind.  Fresh moves from 'handy-bendy-Ghandi'.  

Nottingham's full of similar high-ish window ledges just crying out for crooks, back smiths or front noseslides.  

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

JB yo

If you're in Notts at the weekend, get yourself down to the 42 skateboard emporium for 17.30 Saturday (the 27th April), for a showing of Cliche's new video 'Bon Voyage'.

Eldridge and JB sections be all you need to know.  To get you in the mood, here's Monsieur Jean-Baptiste (to his momz, JB to the rest of us) Gillet's 411 Rookie's section from way back in the late 90s.  Basically, any 411 or Puzzle section that included dope French 'ip 'op (Lunatic in this case) and baggy-ass sweat pants is a must watch as far as I was/am concerned.  And to y'all 20-somethings out there, check out what a certain London-based mogul has to say about JB as his inspiration for the recent range of Palace threads:

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Blueprint's 5 dopest moments

With internet voices still chewing over the succession of events that began with the departure of the Shier-led Blueprint team (including the ill-judged Canadian re-launch, complete with re-used, but hopelessly out-of-context Magee imagery, Hitler's disappointment in the whole thing, and the launch of Isle Skateboards) - lets eulogise the Blueprint we knew....  via a top 5.
....  but not just any old top 5, oh no.  Back in the day, before their vids became unfairly associated with middle-of-the-road indie, Blueprint were rap as hell.  Waiting for the World (2000) marked a transition point from rap Blueprint to a more widely accessible indie Blueprint, but that vid still layered on dopeness with a thick old trowel - especially the use of that bonafide banger of an OC track.  Blueprint's pre-2000 freshness was consistent with an aesthetic that channelled the mix of architectural imagery, conspiracy theories, and blatant rap references, that may seem a bit ill-judged in retrospect, but conveyed the requisite audacity for a new company on the up at that point in time.
So, in no particular order -  please find below 5 of the OG Blueprint's dopest moments:

Mark Baines: Mixed Media (1996)
In an interview in Sidewalk some years back, Magee voiced regret over choosing a song about 'the streets of New York' (by Kool G Rap and DJ Polo) for a kid from Worksop.  However, at the time it blew my sock off....  flowing street lines in some brutalist, Orwellian looking spots (heavy MK and Shell Centre usage in videos of that era), with a song that was full of swagger and self-assurance.  It captured the UK's rising fascination with all things US east coast - pre-dating 1998's classic Mixtape - and was certainly a track I played in my head whilst skating round Sainsbury's car park in Beeston.
As well as super popped flat-land and on-point ledge tricks, many of them switch, Baines knew how to throw a mid/late-90s outfit together - baggy ass Droors jeans plus a bucket hat, a look that Lucien Clarke and other Palace dudes have been working hard to bring back, provoking enthusiasm  from US commentators.

Colin Kennedy: Waiting for the World (2000)
"You lack the minerals and vitamins..." This remains one of my all time favourite sections, and not just for the inspired song choice (OC, 'Time's Up').  How the hell did a white Scottish guy, with a funny shaped head and a penchant for knitwear, bang out a section at least as dope as a brace of sections from Chocolate, Aesthetics or Zoo skaters from the same era?  Impeccable switch skills, amazing trick execution, and a contender for the best switch heel ever performed is why  (complete with backward looking 'this IS switch, motherfuckers' steez).
This section isn't on Youtube, but is on Mpora....  re-watch it then go and try and perform an all-switch line with just 2% of CK's perfection:
You might increase that to 25% if you play this in your head while you're doing it:

Rob Selley: Anthems (1998)
Again, awesome track choice (Camp Lo, 'Luchini'), and one of my favourite ledge heavy sections of all time (whilst CK is more of an all rounder).  Seriously, much of this still stands up today - switch flip 5.0 shove-its, switch backside nosegrind reverts in lines, get me?  Also no reference to Selley is complete without noting the Addidas Superstar devotion.  Wish I was able to skate in shell-toes, then I'd purchase a baggy-ass pair of brown chords and an XXL white polo shirt to go with 'em to try and revive that sartorial combination (a high water mark of mid/late 90s preppy freshness).
He may have legendary status these days, but Selley was an opinion-splitter back in the day - allegedly a certain Anti-Hero loving emporium, either Ideal, Wisdom or Fleapit (depending on the teller) had a picture of a yo grinding Bobbie G on their dart board.  If you plan to embark on a day full of ledges, its highly recommended that you watch this to amp yourself up beforehand - again, not on Youtube, but on Mpora:
However, the original vid for Camp Lo's 'Luchini' is on Youtube...  what.

Chewy Cannon: Lost and Found

Of the younger generation of Blueprint guys, Chewy was always the standout for me - ledge tech with Busenitz-like speed and Quim Cardonna-like looseness.  Although I would have obviously dug this section more with a Wu-Tang instrumental, the whimsical pop tune works well with Chewy's carefree approach.  Some of the lines are next level (the switch Ollie then nollie full cab at the start of the section, then the switch Ollie and switch backside flip line at the Palma de Mallorca plaza mid-way through both stand out) whilst you can really see the roots from Selley's earlier stuff in his trick selection: both are fans of a sneaky, mid-line switch basckside nosegrind revert for example.

The Build and Destroy Promo (1998/9)
And finally, the Build & Destroy promo - which was originally tacked on the end of Neil Chester's excellent Sheffield-centric indie vid 'Through the Eyes of Ruby', having previously been produced for a 411 industry profile that never came to pass.  The start is amazing - the rain and thunder, the sub-Silverstar graphics and then the banging Alpha Prime track comes in (Misanthropic).  People often refer to a couple of Shier's lines in this as the dopest things ever filmed on British soil - but I dig the
Scottish contingent in this (Col Kennedy again, and John Rattray's Southbank frontblunt ender).  CK's bit wouldn't have looked out of place after Jeff Pang's section in Mixtape (love the frontside Ollie out of the wheelchair ramp over the railing...  Pang as hell) and a solid announcement of Scott Palmer's arrival....  "I tried to be doooope." (with strong South Yorkshire/North Lincolnshire accent).

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Things Done Change

A couple of days ago, my buddy sent me a link to the minutes from a crisis meeting in 1994 between industry luminaries, including the likes of Chris Carter (Alien Workshop), Jim Thiebaud (Real), Steve Rocco (World) and the late Mike Ternasky (Plan B).  Steeply declining board sales drove their panic, and the reasons given were:
1) the proliferation of price-point blank boards;
2) the inaccessibility of skating to new entrants, due to the way it was presented in magazines and video, and the related inconsistency of pros at demos; and
3) the behaviour of pros, including their failure to consistently rock their sponsor's tees and boards, as well as unsavoury demo conduct and poor attendance at comps.
My buddy's motives in sending me this, as an industry honcho himself, were rooted in his knowledge of current world board sales - apparently down to 1999 levels, and a fraction of the sales associated with the Tony Hawk Pro Skater fuelled boom of the early 2000s - especially amongst the 11-19 year old cohort responsible for the majority of board purchases.  He proposed a different set of contemporary woes.  Rather than the inaccessibility of skating, it was now insufficiently eye-popping - due to lingering 90s-era pros keeping the levels of athleticism down and crowding young guns out of the lime-light.  The preference of over-30s street snobs like myself, along with Slap forum geeks and the age of most magazine editors, photographers and company owners (i.e. the same generation as the older pros themselves), were skewing the pro population towards low impact skating that may be underwhelming to newcomers who perhaps don't appreciate things like trick aesthetics and good spot selection. 

However, if we look at any similar modern market -  music for example - aren't declining board sales inevitable?  We are measuring the contemporary market with historic indicators.  In a world of Hellaclips instant gratification, major sportswear label competition, round the clock Berrics updates, and everyone and their dog starting a skate company, we can't expect the young-guns to be consuming traditional product in the bulk numbers they once did.  The average level of ability has gone through the roof, but there are way less people actually doing it.  We've lost the armies of groms of yesteryear, but have gained a far smaller group of yoot who absolutely kill it.  The end of the early 2000s boom is one reason (both in terms of the wider economy, but also as the Tony Hawk-driven fad amongst the very young has petered out), but exacerbating this in the US, UK and much of Northern Europe, and - most extremely - in Japan, is the fact that all our populations are ageing - birth rates are falling whilst life expectancies continue to increase.
Moreover, obsessing about the fleeting whims of the vaguely-defined target 11-19 punter sounds eerily similar to the death throws of traditional media in the UK - especially Radio 1:  this is the cohort that drives trends and has consumed most, thus we must unquestioningly meet their needs, even though we don't really know what they are any more.  In music, the cool kids can make and broadcast their own stuff, and can collect and share their take on what's good without the middleman of traditional media. And bravo...  the media middleman has long been a bit shit (Chris Moyles as the 'saviour of Radio 1' for years, for the love of God).   In skating, kids... and the rest of us.... can and do make their own video edits, buy up and print their own planks and tees, and write tiresome blogs like this.
This is a challenge for all luxury industries (sorry dudes, our world is all about trivial luxuries) - especially those that exist predominantly in visual media.  But further to my previous post, I reckon our little luxury world is meeting this challenge in a pretty positive way -  but a way that has yet to translate into board sales.  And probably never will. 
Who would have thought that you could seriously shake things up via a Norwegian language (with a lil' English translation booklet) quarterly mag that looks more like an art-house or fashion periodical?  Nice one, Dank!  Your beautiful product retails at £10 a pop (!!!!), and sits on my coffee table (and the coffee tables of most of my friends) to be poured over again and again, outlasting several months' worth of Sidewalks, Transworlds and Kingpins.  And Magenta - doing really rather well, broadcasting a take on skating that, in purely athletic, performance terms, may be underwhelming -  but aesthetically is ... just fucking dope.  And yes, the values of these indie media outlets and companies closely reflect what the street-obsessed, Mixtape-era 30-something dude loves - but maybe we've come of age as a culture as well as an industry, were we can effectively diversify to meet the preferences of different cohorts.  Deathwish, Shake Junt and Baker may be just what the late teen/early 20s dude digs, and Dank, Magenta and Static may be more to the tastes (and wallet) of dudes like me -  but that's what markets do, they diversify as the consumer base diversifies. 
We're getting older, all of us, and our tastes change....  but that doesn't have to be a bad thing.  And.... and here's my point (finally, soz)...  it means that there is a market for Mike Carroll, when he's done with nollie flipping stair sets, skating beautiful flat-ground lines, just like there's a market for tomorrow's heavy hitter grinding a squillion stair rail.  The challenge for industry honchos is to work with this diversifying market (which, due to population ageing, is also getting older....  in ten years' time, 11-19 year olds will not account for the majority of board sales, its just not demographically possible, unless you start selling more stuff in India, China etc.), and work out how to make money.  This will not be about board sales any more.  It cannot be.  That's using the same thinking as is currently driving the scorched earth polices at Radio 1, Sony or Time Warner.  The world done change, son  - but for fans of the art as well of the sport of skating, the future looks pretty bright.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

If you don't know, now you know

In order to 1) cheer Scotty up with the warm glow of nostalgia whilst recovering from his knee injury and 2) contribute to the hype around 42's amazing Sunday Circuit idea, thought I'd put some of the old copies of Sidewalk gathering dust in the spare room to good use (though this is by no means a start of Chromeball-esque archiving...  Chops is the undisputed Franciscan Friar of skateboarding, no one can compete):
These 3 scans are from the end of the mid-90s-early 2000s period when Nottingham was a dominant fixture in UK skating.  A fair proportion of Sidewalk staff lived in Notts, as did two of the founding fathers of Unabomber, Harry and Rushbrooke -  and tricks at Old Market Square, Broadmarsh Banks and the Amphitheatre were in Sidewalk every month.
This handrail front-board, from Scotty Underpants himself, graced the cover of the June 2000 edition of Sidewalk - I think the handrail is at the side of a loading bay at the back of a hotel between St James Street and the Castle/Amphitheatre, but I may well be wrong.  This was a banger of an issue to boot - with an article on a New York trip featuring Andy Simpson, Matt Prichard and Dave Chesson.

Also in 2000 (Oct/November - before Sidewalk started producing 12 issues a year), this cover snap is of Smedley and his scarily consistent switch front-side flips, down the Amphitheatre big three, and well in 'The Storm' sweatpant era.

Back a couple of years to 1998, and this example of Jon Weatherall's impeccable switch kickflips down the Old Mark Square 5/6 (depending on whether you count the big gap in the first set of slabs at the bottom as an additional step).  Got loads more Weatherall steeziness in the magazine piles, so will be chucking them up as soon as I can think of an excuse.

Crikey its cold...  Flo on Monday night anyone...?

Monday, 11 March 2013


Quick post (or, more accurately, another re-post): those fine fellows at Quartersnacks just posted this link to a news story on an art installation & public realm project in Berlin, where granite slabs salvaged from the redevelopment of  Palace of the Republic have been carted off to an abandoned airfield and re-constituted as an amazing looking plaza development...  at limited cost to the public purse, and maximum fun and aesthetic pleasure for the city's skate brotherhood.

Most Nottingham locals still miss (the communal skate facility, not the pigeon shit covering of) old market square.  Sneinton market - despite its arguably better construction - has yet to fully fill that gap, even if it got fairly prevalent in 2012's Big Push edits.  How great would it have been if some of those crusty old slabs from the square could have been handed over to us, so we could have carted them off to one of the abandoned airfields in Nottinghamshire?  Hell, East Midlands Airport is bound to be usable for such things sooner or later, with the departure of EasyJet and demise of BMI... leaving us with frickin' Ryan Air for our Barcelona escapes.  Stalin-square-on-Trent, yo.  As ever, the Germans (and Scandinavians and Dutch - Northern Europeans generally) are miles ahead of both us in the UK and the Americans with this sort of inspired lateral thinking.  The newish plaza in Cologne is another testament to this, which has presumably made locals happier about the loss of much of the iconic Doms platz of many a Puzzle section.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Slam recently posted a new edit by Chris Mulhern, Static contributor and maker of 'This Time Tomorrow' - one of the best indie vids to come out of the US in the last 2-3 years (and if you've not seen it, it features killer sections from Brits Steph Morgan and Lucien Clarke and honorary Brit and OG SF head Will Harmon, skating London and Philly spots). 
'The Philadelphia Experiment' isn't far off the perfect edit... new footage of Ishod Wair combined with archive footage of Ricky Oyola.  The rugged Philly spots even make Mark Suciu's (admittedly amazing) skating look interesting.  Mulhern's consistent aesthetic - illustrated in This Time Tomorrow and his promo work for 5Boro and Pusher Wheels (all on the This Time Tomorrow DVD extras... buy it!) - is in full effect in this edit: the filming of proper street skating, finished with a feel-good red/brown palette that makes Philly brick-work look amazing.   Also dig the imagery: architectural diagrams, old maps, and night-time shots of eerily lit, grand old buildings - reminiscent of the 90s brand Silverstar, and early Blueprint stuff (when all those masonic conspiracy references were en vogue on both sides of the pond - for those 90s survivors still geeking out on conspiracy theories and weird-but-maybe-true moments in modern history, look up the Philadelphia experiment).
Replace the 60s/70s soul and classic rock n' pop with some ignorant ass hip-hop, and you really would have the perfect template for a skate flick.  Its just been deleted from youtube, so you'll have to view it on Vimeo here:


The Philadelphia Experiment from Caste Quality on Vimeo.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

For a first post, it seems opportune to jump on the hype wagon and enthuse about the amazing mini explosion of indie companies coming in strong and shaking up our little world - and many good dudes have already enthused about this very thing, notably in Jenkem mag, Boil the Ocean, Frozen in Carbonite, and in pretty much every Quartersnacks update of the last 12 months.

Soooo.....  despite loving the emergence of Palace, Polar, Magenta, Hopps, Scumco and Sons, etc. every bit as much as the next dude who appreciates relateable street skating, in real spots, in interesting cities, from dudes who generally know how to execute their tricks AND throw an outfit together....  I wanted to come at it all from a different angle.  The economics of it, son.

Any student of this shiznitz would know that skateboarding is a pretty weird market.  Rather than entering the market because they want a slice of the super-normal profits made by existing players, dudes launch their new skate companies in already saturated sub-markets, in the full knowledge that the existing players are squabbling over ever depleting board sales (making anything but super-normal profits), because: 1) they're done with skating for a living themselves, want to make a living post-35, and want to stamp 'their vision' onto our little world or; 2) they're fans like the rest of us, who want to avoid a proper job and play out their hobby for a living.  Both understandable, but hardly rational decisions based on any weighing up of costs and benefits, let alone a thought out business strategy.  The thing that enables this to happen time and time again is that there's virtually no entry or exit costs in a small skate company.  You come up with a few graphics and a name, purchase a small run of boards with your pocket money (likewise with a bunch of t-shirts), and survive for as long as you can.  Once its all over, you've not invested in any capital to speak of (i.e. there are very few sunk costs), so can walk away without being ruined.

This is great in one respect, because we as consumers get a diverse and constantly changing range of companies to back, and we can merrily pat ourselves on the back for supporting 'punk rock ethics', and dudes starting companies for the love of skating not for the expectation of profit, blah blah blah.  However, up until recently, we - both as a community of fans/participants and skating as a culture/artform (que fart noise) - were all the poorer for this.   Why?  Firstly, all these half-baked new companies, lacking any unique vision that made them stand out from the rest, provide no competition for the big dudes.  Competition forces established players to innovate, diversify, improve their products, reach their customers in new ways, etc..  Hardly any of the 50ish new UK companies we've seen over the last decade (up until Palace) pose any kind of competition to Girl/Element/Plan B/Baker/Tum Yeto/Kayo etc.  So we get umpteen logo board runs from beloved established companies like Girl (who used to be so fresh), and a succession of forgettable ams being hyped.

Second and thirdly, half-baked new companies can't pay their riders - but squeeze the margins for those legit smaller companies who do pay their riders ( Dan Magee's moan when Blueprint reigned supreme).  This is an old observation.  But additional to that, and more personal, in terms of the skaters I like (and after all, I'm interested in this as a fan... not because I give a shit about the business side of skating), it pushes out older skaters when they still have years of pop left in their sticks (take Vincent Bressol and Thiebaud Fradin from Cliche), and it makes it difficult for smaller legit companies to properly help up good young dudes, who may not have the cross-over appeal of the Dylan Reiders of this world.  This is my theory for why we see so much more of the yawn-fest ATV, comp winner, tight pant-wearing youth in a certain UK mag - and a lot less of the more interesting, young street guys (Danny Beall, Shaun Witherup, etc).  Its the same in the US.

On the other side of the coin, its a weird market because we - as consumers and fans - have such a mixed and contradictory range of preferences.  Companies like Element (rightly) get a harsh time because they screw over skaters when they get injured, have a dull, corporate aesthetic, and care more about cross-over appeal and high-street action-sport point-of-sale than they do about the core scene and its values.  We thus dig companies with punk-rock, DIY, or 'family' ethics - even if this is a load of old PR bull (the aforementioned sacking from the Cliche 'family' is a case in point... for all their current ills, one presumes Girl/Choc would never do anything like that to their OG team riders).  Conversely, like most consumers, we like nice looking products, that have thought, innovation and artistry put into them.  This is how many of us, me included, live with ourselves when we buy Nike or Addidas - they're inarguably good products, beautifully presented to us, and worthy of our pennies.  Not many companies can succesfully respond to these conflicting preferences - and all make trade-offs.

And then along comes Magenta, Polar, Palace etc. -  with Polar a particularly great example of DIY ethics, a family attitude to supporting the team, amazing, high quality products and general 'feel' -  presenting a unique take on this saturated little world.  Palace also, though with a very different strategy (how accidental is their limited distribution, creating the well-documented Supreme-like demand for their Ts and caps, from skaters and non-skaters alike?). 

The impact this has had is amazing.  In terms of the market, we've seen the big players start investing in their art direction again (and on a surface level, producing a load of vid edits with Palace-lite VHS fetishism).  Competition drives innovation.  But for the wider culture and act of skateboarding, the outcome is arguably even cooler....  its not just a case of 'everything in skating is cool' again, but that something very specific has been shown to be cool: relateable skating, in spots we can all access, that is aesthetically pleasing rather than all that risk-laden, top 0.05% pre-teen stuntery.  In short, its stuff 35 year olds and 21 year olds alike can get hyped on before they go out skating....  which is why we buy vids and boards in the first place.  Polar, Palace, Magenta etc. reflect the culture that normal grass-roots skaters experience straight back at us - and prove that we're all way better than all that Street League/Plan B/Red Bull extreme nonsense.  We're consuming an image of skating as we experience it -  and that's pretty darn healthy when you compare to other sports.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

what up

This blog is brand-new and will soon be full of loads of stuff: photos and vids from skateboarding in and around Nottingham; enthusiastic hype of dope new stuff....  like the new MCR scene vid Snake Eyes Die; travel logging; and the (hopefully eloquent) ramblings of a 35 year old dude on skating and related stuff as it was back in the day, as it is now, and hopefully will be in the future.